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Brix tests for nutrition density

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Post  Roseinarosecity 7/20/2019, 5:33 pm

@OhioGardener wrote:This afternoon, out of total curiosity, I decided to check the Brix value of the Curly Kale and Rainbow Chard that I harvested for dinner.  I had to use a garlic press to get enough juice out of a folded piece of the leaves, but the results were worth it (I need to find an easier way to compress leaves to juice, though, since cleaning the press between tests was a pain).  The Curly Kale showed a Brix score of 20, and the Rainbow Chard showed a Brix score of 8.

The International Ag Labs Brix chart shows the readings for Kale as: Poor 8; Average 10; Good 12; and Excellent 16.  So my test at 20 was in the high excellent category. Sounds very nutritious, in addition to testing great! Very Happy 

The International Ag Labs does not list a reading for Swiss Chard, but I found an article on the Ohio State University site that shows Chard readings as an average of 4.6, and a range of 2.6 to 6.5. My Rainbow Chard showed to be a little out of the range at 8, on the high side.

I am happy with these results, and think it reflects the health of the soil the plants are grown in.  The International Ag Labs says this about the Brix test:

"Within a given species of plant, the crop with the higher refractive index will have a higher sugar content, higher mineral content, higher protein content and a greater specific gravity or density. This adds up to a sweeter tasting, more minerally nutritious food with lower nitrate and water content, lower freezing point, and better storage attributes."

Ohio Gardener, this is very interesting.
How will this influence your choice of vegetables?  As you test, will you eliminate low testing vegetables?  Or will it influence when you harvest?
R
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Post  OhioGardener 7/20/2019, 7:19 pm

@Roseinarosecity wrote:Ohio Gardener, this is very interesting.
How will this influence your choice of vegetables?  As you test, will you eliminate low testing vegetables?  Or will it influence when you harvest?
R

It doesn't affect my selection of vegetables as much as it focuses on the mineral and nutrition level of the soil the vegetables are growing in. I grow only heirloom vegetables, and grow everything organically, so the vegetables are pretty much the same every year.

The short answer is that I believe the healthier the soil, and the higher the Brix reading, the higher the nutrition level of the plants.  And, that is why I'm concerned about the Brix readings.

The long answer is a little more detailed, if not interested in Brix testing is probably not worth reading from here forward.

According to the "experts", the higher the carbohydrate in the plant juice the higher the mineral content of the plant, the oil content of the plant, and the protein quality of the plant. And, drops with higher Brix will produce more alcohol from fermented sugars and be more resistant to insects, thus resulting in decreased insecticide usage If I accept those assumptions, I want the soil rich enough to produce the highest possible Brix reading.  And, experience has shown that if the Brix reading of the plant at lower on the plant is higher than the Brix reading at the top of the plant, then the phosphate level is inadequate, or the phosphate/potassium ratio is out of balance.  Another indicator is the clarity of the refractometer reading - if the refractometer display has a very sharp, well defined line, the soil is low in calcium, while a cloudy or diffused line indicates adequate calcium.

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Post  OhioGardener 1/16/2020, 7:36 am

@OhioGardener wrote:
@Roseinarosecity wrote:Ohio Gardener, this is very interesting.
How will this influence your choice of vegetables?  As you test, will you eliminate low testing vegetables?  Or will it influence when you harvest?
R

It doesn't affect my selection of vegetables as much as it focuses on the mineral and nutrition level of the soil the vegetables are growing in. I grow only heirloom vegetables, and grow everything organically, so the vegetables are pretty much the same every year.

I may have to re-think this answer.  This morning I was reading a blog on High Mowing Gardens, titled: Growing Better Flavor: How to Improve Brix for a Tastier Harvest

In that blog they offer suggestions that plants are being bred for higher Brix readings, therefore better taste:

"According to a 2013 fact sheet published by Ohio State University Extension, “All things being equal, varieties of the same crop tend to differ in their baseline Brix level. That is, varieties have a natural inclination toward lower or higher levels of soluble solids within the portion that is marketed. Therefore, variety selection is one of the most important and direct methods of shaping Brix and crop quality.”


More and more, organic breeders are selecting and crossing varieties based on their flavor profiles and Brix levels. Why is this trend specific to organics? The organic market sells to consumers who value flavor. If these consumers aren’t already buying their own seed to grow organic food at home, then they are usually purchasing produce directly from farms through a market or CSA, and they do so because they want to taste the difference."

So, I may start looking at the catalog descriptions regarding taste as well as other factors. One of the new plants I am considering this year is the Honey Butternut Squash, which is a smaller, sweeter Butternut squash.  We usually grow the Waltham Butternut, but it is too large to consume in one meal and always has lots of leftovers. The Honey Butternut Squash is a smaller, sweeter squash according to the description in the above article.

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Post  Dan in Ct 1/16/2020, 10:21 am

OhioGardener, does the Brix Scale measure the total nutrition or just the sugars? Every time we breed for a trait something always gets lost. I don't think breeders who were breeding for shipping ability and uniform ripeness consciously bred out flavor. The song lyric, you can't always get what you want, plays in the background. Just thinking out loud, I saw a video on lettuce and when it is harvested seeps a milky substance that is only available for the first 24 hours which is suppose to be loaded with nutrients. I am wondering now if there is a graph showing nutrition diminishing with the passing of time. I still like my plant breeding to be done naturally but I am too much of a gentleman to actually watch.
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Post  OhioGardener 1/16/2020, 11:24 am

@Dan in Ct wrote:OhioGardener, does the Brix Scale measure the total nutrition or just the sugars? Every time we breed for a trait something always gets lost.

Don't have a definitive answer to that, being only a citizen scientist, and not a chemical engineer.  But, I believe it measures a lot regarding nutrition. For example, I know from experience if the the Brix reading of a plant shows a very clear line it means that the soil is deficient in calcium, or the potassium ratio is off. But, if the line is blurred, it means that all is well. So, I think that is more than sugar, but don't know that the sugar level doesn't do that. Meanwhile, I tend to agree with some of the experts on Brix readings, such as this one:

Suze: Rex, can you explain what Brix is? Most people I’ve spoken to about Brix insist that it’s only a measure of a plant’s sugar content. Is this true?

Rex: I’ve come across many ways to dispel that “only sugar” notion. A favorite is to sit a Doubting Thomas on my back porch and pour him a glass of ordinary store-bought orange juice. Once he has sipped a little, I add a spoonful of sugar to his glass. Most people quickly understand that sugar is not what makes orange juice taste good–most report that the added sugar just makes the orange juice taste yucky. And it certainly does. The point is that adding the sugar raises the apparent “Brix,” but it does nothing for the taste. True Brix measures a combination of sugar, amino acids, oils, proteins, flavonoids, minerals and other goodies. Sugar is merely one of the components of Brix. This same scenario holds for any fresh juice you wish to name. (The Quest for Nutrient-Dense Food: High-Brix Farming and Gardening)

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Post  Dan in Ct 1/18/2020, 6:13 am

OhioGardener, I get a weekly newsletter from the National Gardening Association and they had an article this week that I thought I would share, "Super-Nutritious Vegetables". Informative but wish it contained references for further review. This is what happens when an obsessive compulsive quits drinking and takes up gardening.

https://garden.org/learn/articles/view/135/?utm_source=nl&utm_medium=mail&utm_campaign=nl_2020-01-18
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Post  sanderson 1/24/2020, 7:03 pm

@Dan in Ct wrote:OhioGardener, I get a weekly newsletter from the National Gardening Association and they had an article this week that I thought I would share, "Super-Nutritious Vegetables". Informative but wish it contained references for further review. This is what happens when an obsessive compulsive quits drinking and takes up gardening. . .
Chuckling with you.

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Post  OhioGardener 5/6/2020, 10:04 pm

Today I harvested the Lacinato Kale, Swiss Chard, and Perpetual Spinach ahead of the predicted arctic freeze that is heading our way.  I decided to do a Brix test on each of them and see how the soil is doing for spring planting.


  • The Kale tested at 16: Brix chart shows 16 as Excellent.
  • The Swiss Chard tested at 13: Brix chart shows 12 as Excellent
  • Perpetual Spinach tested at 12: Brix chart does not include it, but it is a variety of Chard so it is probably the same reading


I  am very happy with those readings for early spring plantings. The bed that all of those are in was overwintered with a heavy layer of dried leaves, then this spring I added rock dust, compost, and worm castings before putting the transplants into the soil. The plants are growing fast and very healthy. I started the seeds indoors the first week of February, and transplanted them into the bed on March 24th. This is the first full harvest of them. The sauteed Kale & Garlic was delicious, too! Very Happy

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Post  OhioGardener 5/20/2021, 9:19 am

The High Mowing Organic Seeds newsletter for this week has an excellent article on using Brix to have a tastier harvest. It was good timing, since yesterday morning I decided to do a Brix test of the Chard and Kale that I harvested.  Both of them tested much higher than I expected - must be the coffee grounds!?! - and the DW commented on how sweet the Kale was that she put in the lunch salad.

If interested in using Brix testing, check out the article here: Growing Better Flavor: How to Improve Brix for a Tastier Harvest

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Post  Yardslave 5/20/2021, 12:15 pm

Higher brix levels indicate higher carbohydrate (sugar) levels. High sugar levels in plants are proportional to the amount of available nitrogen in the soil. In the past, before SFG, I have had been trying to "push" plant growth and high brix levels by the addition of high-nitrogen synthetic fertilizers. The resulting foliage and fruit was a short term gain, but the thing I noted most was that higher nitrogen levels  seem to ring the dinner bell for pests, particularly sucking insects, like aphids, spider mites, and scale. My lacinato Kale was like a centerpiece for an aphid banquet, and seemed to attract all sorts of pests to come along for the feast. I think that the high bio-availability of micro nutrients in Mell's Mix, in addition to sustainable levels of available NPK, result in plants that are more resilient to infestations. Overall, my plants experience have shown better results without the addition of synthetics.
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Post  OhioGardener 5/20/2021, 12:59 pm

I don't use any synthetic/chemical fertilizers - everything is completely organic - and depend on the microbes to provide the plant-available nutrients for the balanced development of plants. For the past 6 or 7 decades, this has proven to be highly productive, with very few pest problems (those white cabbage moths are the exception!). The real improvements to the productivity of my gardens came after reading & following Jeff Lowenfels books Teaming with Microbes and Teaming with Nutrients, though.

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